Leadership score: Arvind Kejriwal is at 7/10

Last Updated: Thu, Jan 30, 2014 07:39 hrs

The man everyone wants to know right now is Arvind Kejriwal. He is raw and provocative and has leapfrogged over the usual Indian fissures of caste, religion, gender and wealth. He gives a sense that he has something for the needy and everything against the greedy.

This is appealing to many. He may, if he is able to convince, be the big unpredictable factor in the 2014 General Election. But how does he rank as a leader? How do the other big two, Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, shape up as leaders?

We shall take a look at this by applying ten core leadership questions to each of them. We begin with Kejriwal.

1. Does he know why he wants to lead?

Yes. Kejriwal says he is in it to open up the system. He says you have to be inside to clear the way for the masses. This is different from the Sonia Gandhi approach of distance influence. Thus far, Kejriwal has shown disdain for protocol. His recent dharna at Rail Bhavan was the closest that any protest has come physically to Parliament in 40 years.

2. Does he allow his team to function in an atmosphere of truth and transparency?

Yes. You can see the economic activity of the Aam Aadmi Party online. Revenue and expenditure is accounted for. The AAP is willing to consider public opinion in Jammu and Kashmir, as different from what the state thinks. AAP seniors often air different views on serious issues, which is the opposite of programmed thought systems in older parties.

3. Does he pass on his knowledge to his team by communicating with them?

Probably not enough. Communication between Kejriwal and his core team appears to be mostly in the form of physical meetings, which may be limited to an agenda. Also, lessons learned seem to be passing from Kejriwal mostly to Manish Sisodia in the Delhi cabinet. You can see how at least one other minister is struggling in the absence of mentoring.

4. Is he open to ways other than his?

No. Vinod Kumar Binny’s expulsion is too early in an organisation that needs to be inclusive even in the face of affront. Kejriwal has difficulty accommodating the thoughts of Anna Hazare, Santosh Hegde and Kiran Bedi, all former team players. Some of this intolerance is reflecting in new colleagues like Ashutosh, who is draconian in thoughts and words.

5. Does he apply rules to all in his organisation?

Yes. Sitting MLAs cannot contest a Lok Sabha election. No one will use red beacons on vehicles. No one will use expansive official accommodation. No elected representative shall use excessive security cover. Traffic will not be halted to allow AAP ministers to pass. If it’s a choice between people and the government, they will choose people.

6. Does he recruit people smarter than him?

Probably. Only Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav among AAP seniors seem to have a mind of their own. Most of the others appear to come from intent more than anything else. Good intent is not necessarily synonymous with a sharp mind. But some people of caliber like Mallika Sarabhai have come on board lately.

7. Does he repeat things often enough for them to be remembered?

Yes. The central message is change. The prime campaign is against corruption. The principal objective is to hand power to the people in the form of neighbourhood committees. Jan Lokpal it will be. Kejriwal has repeated these things hundreds of times. He sticks to them at the risk of coming across as simplistic, which he is not.

8. Does he choose wisely from history to learn?

Yes. Kejriwal seems to have picked politics lessons principally from Mahatma Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri. Among those living, he counts Anna Hazare as his guru. He has not looked elsewhere although Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel offer magnificent insights as well. Kejriwal doesn’t seem to read right or left. His focus is the centre.

9. Does he think facts are sacred?

No. He glossed over the penalty he owed the state for violating terms of duty. He didn’t tell Anna Hazare about the SMS cards on Hazare’s name. He waved a letter from the Uganda High Commission to justify Delhi law minister Somnath Bharti’s conduct. The letter wasn’t written to him. It had nothing to do with Bharti’s raid.

10. Does he let his team fail?

Yes. The AAP has not got anything right in the south of India yet. Some of its seniors have gotten into a flap over inappropriate work ethics caught on video tape. One of his ministers has been stumbling ever since he took up office. Yogendra Yadav couldn’t pacify the rebel MLA Binny.

Marks scored: 7/10. 1 mark for a yes, 0 for a no, half a mark for probably.

[Next: Narendra Modi]

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Vijay Simha is an independent journalist and sobriety campaigner based out of New Delhi. His most recent journalism assignment was as executive editor with The Financial World, New Delhi, and tehelka.com. 

He was a guest on Season 1 of the popular Indian TV show Satyamev Jayate, hosted by Aamir Khan.

Vijay blogs here and may be contacted at vijsimha@gmail.com.

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